Hugh lit­tle beauty

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - AN­DREW FEN­TON

HAS the time come for Hugh Jack­man to hang up his claws as Wolver­ine for good? The 44- year- old is rid­ing high, with new adult sus­pense thriller Pris­on­ers top­ping the US box of­fice and draw­ing the Aus­tralian ac­tor the best re­views of his ca­reer.

There’s plenty of buzz that his pow­er­house per­for­mance as a fa­ther driven to ex­tremes to lo­cate his young daugh­ter could re­sult in a sec­ond Os­car nom­i­na­tion, fol­low­ing this year’s best ac­tor nod for Les Mis­er­ables.

Some now won­der if his re­cent form cre­ates the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for Jack­man to grace­fully bow out of the role that made him a star.

“Is Wolver­ine now a li­a­bil­ity for Hugh Jack­man’s ca­reer?” Va­ri­ety re­cently asked in typ­i­cally hy­per­bolic fash­ion re­cently, point­ing out US box of­fice re­turns for this year’s The Wolver­ine were a third down on its pre­de­ces­sor, sug­gest­ing au­di­ence fa­tigue with the char­ac­ter ( world­wide tak­ings for the two films, how­ever, were sim­i­lar).

But per­haps more im­por­tantly, when X Men: Days of Fu­ture Past opens next year, Jack­man will have played the hairy mu­tant in seven movies over 15 years, longer than Daniel Rad­cliffe spent as Harry Pot­ter, and in more than twice as many movies as su­per­hero ac­tors like Chris­tian Bale ( Bat­man) and Tobey Maguire ( Spi­der- Man) dared for fear of type­cast­ing.

Hav­ing fi­nally gained ca­reer mo­men­tum out­side of the X Men fran­chise in the past two years with Real Steel, Les Mis and now Pris­on­ers – af­ter try­ing and fail­ing with films such as Van Hels­ing, Scoop, Aus­tralia and The Foun­tain – the ar­gu­ment is the last thing Jack­man needs to do is to go back to the well once more and re­in­force the idea he’s noth­ing more than a mu­tant with lethal claws and even more dan­ger­ous side­burns.

Three weeks af­ter film­ing his last scene on X Men: Days of Fu­ture Past, Jack­man con­firmed he had been turn­ing that ques­tion over in his mind, but had “de­lib­er­ately made no de­ci­sion about it”.

“I do know there is an ex­piry date. This is just com­ing from my end, I’m fully aware the power more comes from the fans and the stu­dio than it does from me, but there will come the right time to leave and I can tell you right now, it will have to be a very com­pelling case for me to come back to do it,” he said.

“I have to ad­mit, I re­ally loved play­ing this char­ac­ter in this film [ Pris­on­ers] and I’m prob­a­bly look­ing, in a way, to play sim­i­lar types of pow­er­ful and dra­matic parts.”

If there’s a con­nec­tion be­tween Wolver­ine, and sur­vival­ist fa­ther Keller Dover in Cana­dian di­rec­tor De­nis Vil­leneuve’s Pris­on­ers, it’s their anger.

For the for­mer, it’s a broad- brush, comic book- style of brood­ing anti- hero anger.

In the lat­ter, it’s a mes­meris­ing and be­liev­able fury born of frus­tra­tion and fear, as the min­utes and hours tick by with the po­lice, rep­re­sented by Jake Gyl­len­haal’s De­tec­tive Loki, seem­ingly in­ca­pable of find­ing his child and her friend.

In des­per­a­tion, Keller takes po­lice sus­pect Alex ( Paul Dano) pris­oner and tor­tures him in to find an­swers.

It’s cu­ri­ous that two of Jack­man’s most suc­cess­ful roles are such an­gry char­ac­ters, as ev­ery­one seems to con­sider the ac­tor to be one of the most pleas­ant and down to earth peo­ple in Hol­ly­wood.

While he ad­mit­ted to be­ing “an­gry in my youth” Jack­man said he had mel­lowed into a “mod­er­ate slash bor­ing char­ac­ter” who’s fairly even tem­pered.

But Pris­on­ers, he said, is about the hid­den depths in all of us that you don’t know how far you’ll go un­til you’re pushed to ex­tremes.

While you might as­sume he drew on his ex­pe­ri­ences as a fa­ther to fuel the raw power of his per­for­mance, he said he was re­luc­tant to em­pathise too strongly.

“To imag­ine your own kid in that sit­u­a­tion is just too strong a trig­ger to ac­tu­ally al­low you as an ac­tor to play and move around,” he said.

In­stead he re­searched real- life cases where par­ents had re­acted in sim­i­lar ways.

“Time and time again this stuff plays out and peo­ple do way worse things,” he said. “I re­mem­ber read­ing about a fa­ther whose fiveyear- old went miss­ing. How mad­den­ing it is that ev­ery sec­ond you know your child is wait­ing for you to come and get him, not the cops or any­one else.

“You see stuff like that and that can get you there.”

Just watch­ing Pris­on­ers for par­ents of young chil­dren is hard enough, so play­ing the role must have had some last­ing im­pact on the ac­tor, no mat­ter how hard he tried to com­part­men­talise it. Jack­man con­ceded there had been a dark­en­ing in his world view.

“Do­ing all the re­search that I did, that kind of knowl­edge seeped in, and do I watch them a lit­tle closer? Am I a lit­tle more aware? Sure. I think I’ve prob­a­bly been guilty of be­ing maybe a lit­tle naive in think­ing ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be fine and I’m prob­a­bly more vig­i­lant.”

And of course, it has led him to won­der how far he’d go if he was put in the same po­si­tion.

“But you know, as far as I would go, to be hon­est my wife would go a lot fur­ther, I know that,” he said.

PRIS­ON­ERS Now show­ing Vil­lage Cine­mas ( East­lands only)

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